We just returned home from a Thanksgiving trip to Georgia, where we spent the holiday with Big Daddy's grandparents, mother, stepfather, his two sisters and their husbands, and one of his two younger brothers. We had a great time and that's not the white trash part (What, just because we were in Georgia and have a big family? Don't you judge me!). It was the trip down that caused my aha moment.
First of all, Somerset was sick and puked at intervals of about one hour the whole way down, which took about eight and a half hours total. My solution to this was to tuck a plastic grocery bag into the harness of her car seat, creating a kind of plastic-bag-bib (marketable? Hmm...), so she had it right there if she had the sudden need to vomit. She actually seemed to feel fine in between regurgitative episodes, and she had nothing but crackers and water in her pitiful little belly after the first time anyway. Until we went to McDonalds. Because there's nothing like amalgamated chicken parts boiled in oil to settle a sick stomach, right?
We make this trip just about every year at this time, and it's our habit to make the first stop about halfway, either on this side of Birmingham or the other, depending on who is asleep/crying/needing-to-pee/puking. This time we only made it to Jasper, Alabama, for obvious reasons, but found a McDonald's with a playland so the kids could stretch their legs. I should mention that Joshua was on the tail end of a coughing sickness that involves night-time fever, which he has since passed on to the baby. I estimate that with all the holiday travel coming through that McDonalds in Jasper, which was considerable, my children probably spread disease over a five-state area with a single pass down the curvy purple tube slide. Sorry everyone!
Sitting there at a table in the playland of McDonald's in Jasper, Alabama, which smelled like an ash tray in spite of the "Ronald's Playplace is a smoke-free environment" sign hanging above my table, I had a moment of unpleasant clarity. It looked something like this: I have on a pair of baggy, faded, stretched out Old Navy jeans, a worn fleece that zips up the front over a tank top that is not visible so it looks like I'm not wearing a shirt underneath (with some kind of schmutz on the left shoulder), unshowered, frizzy-haired, mascara smudged, etc. My four-year-old daughter, who may or may not have vomit in her stringy ash blond hair, is wearing hot pink sweat pants with a faded hand-me-down navy blue Buzz Lightyear sweatshirt that was hastily thrown on in place of the vomit-spattered pink sweatshirt (later the pink pants will be thrown in a gas station trash can after she projectiles her chicken nuggets over the top of the plastic-bag-bib). All the vomiting has given her face a dark-circled, pinched, Appalachian look. My five-year-old son has on red sweat pants that are about three inches too short (and have been officially passed down to his sister, except Big Daddy has problems knowing whose clothes are whose when he puts laundry away) with a too-large gray sweatshirt that is probably Calvin's. Both boys need haircuts. The baby has on pink terry footie pajamas that have seen better days. If I look around that McDonald's in Jasper, Alabama, and divide the parents there into two groups: citified travelers just passing through the likes of Jasper, and local yokels who either live here or someplace just like it, I would have to say I look more like the latter even though I am ostensibly part of the former. Depressing.
I sometimes joke that I am just one generation out of the trailer park. That's not exactly accurate, but not too far from the mark, either. And my mom did have a friend when I was a kid who not only lived in a trailer park with her several kids, but had an old toilet in the yard with flowers planted in it. I thought that was the coolest thing ever! Maybe not folk art's finest hour, but creative nonetheless.
Epiphanies like the one I had in Jasper are probably good for me, because truth be told, I have a tendency to judge people based on appearance. Yes, I know that makes me a "bad person." Whatever, you know you do it too. At least I realize that I am possibly the worst judge of character to ever live. My first impressions of people almost always prove to be completely wrong. So yeah, seeing myself through the eyes of those cute young moms in their comfortable-yet-not-dumpy traveling ensembles and realizing that I look like I just came down off the mountain was humbling. Luckily, I had a chance to recover on the way home, when we stopped at the slightly nicer McDonald's near Birmingham and crashed a birthday party in the playland. "Who still has birthday parties at McDonald's?" I asked Big Daddy haughtily. "Where else are you going to have it around here?" he replied as we sped away toward Memphis, where all the cool kids have parties that involve inflatables and all the cool moms show up looking like not white trash.